Background radiation: Ommadon, «Fundamentalist Drone»

OmmadonVIIMy dear friend,

you can either consider Ommadon’s music of the space, or music of the Earth, but in both cases you have to add ‘deep’ – deep in the outer space, or deep down in the ground (and maybe also deep in time). The music of Glasgow drone/doom duo (Mr David Tobin & Mr Ewan Mackenzie) comes from ‘somewhere’, it is the record of a place where primal elements confront themselves.

I’ll put an end to this silly flow of metaphores, but let me say that the cathartic power of their sonic Behemoths is huge – not easy, if you are not accustomed to such dark musical explorations, but rewarding.

A perfect example of what I’m trying to say are the hypnotic 36 minutes of their last output, Fundamentalist Drone, which you can find in their split lp, titled Crumbling Experience, with Legion of Andromeda. A grandiose black river of noise (guitar & keys), flowing without interruptions, coming from and ending in some sort of background radiation. There is not just one ‘current’ in this river: you can hear collapses, deviations, bongs & demolitions. The sound is always moving, shifting, and carrying you away. And as it seems to get heavier and heavier… you just feel lighter.

As with the previous installments of their journey, I want very much to hear where Ommadon will go next.

Yours heavily, mp

Ommadon, Fundamentalist Drone, in Crumbling Existence, At War with False Noise 2016.



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Intensity & Intention: Monoliths, «Monoliths»

MonolithsDear friend,

sometimes it’s like when you read a recipe: you consider the ingredients, and then, after a quick thought, you’d say: this must be good. Same thing with Monoliths (btw, as a metalhead, let me dream of a world where everybody is able and willing to discuss similarities and differences between Monoliths, Monolithe and Monolith): when I read that Byrne from Bismuth, Tobin from Ommadon & Davies from Moloch, to quote their words, «came together in Nottingham through a love of raw and heavy metal [to] play heavy and slow. No plan, no goals, just riffs», I said: this must be awfully good.

And it is.

You may ask in which ways this could be called ‘good’. Well, in several ways, actually.

First of all I always find exciting when you can hear the birth of the riff, starting from the raw material sunk in the feedback: it takes nearly three minutes to the three guys to extract and set in motion the riff of the first track – quite aptly titled Perpetual motion –, and then you have it: a black engine (a «monster of a traction engine», as Paul Quinn of «Ghost Cult» says), a reactor with unlimited fuel that can take you really down below.

Moreover the doom is definitely there, in that half an hour of music. It’s the kind of doom I like the most: heavy but not too angry, serious but not stuffy, obstinate but vast, slow but not motionless. With the strong use of repetition comes also a strong sense of drone, which is always the testbed for the power of the riff.

Then you have a sharp sense of spontaneity and need – the noise of the strings (and the drums) being played with as much intensity and intention as possible. Still, you can easily imagine them playing their riffs for ever, as if there were nothing else left to do.

As you can see, I always try to find poor words for what is just good metal, very good doom in this case, so let’s say that Monoliths sounds like a powerful and healthy radiation, and let’s hope this is just the beginning.

Yours heavily, mp

Monoliths, Monoliths, Dry Cough Records 2016.


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Sweet doom: Goatess, «Purgatory Under New Management»

PurgatoryUnderNewManagementDear friend,

you know that I don’t make comparisons any longer: don’t ask me that. I don’t say they’re wrong, it’s just that I don’t care. It’s quite obvious that my ears – everybody’s ears – are ful of past riffs & screams, and they pop up when I’m listening to something new, but it’s always what I’m hearing that matters.

So, I cannot find a single flaw in Purgatory Under New Management, Goatess’ second album. On the contrary, I’ve found a lot of good things, substantial things & tiny details, beyond the obvious homage to the masters. Everything is meticulously crafted, and you can get a precise idea of that since the first track, Moth to Flame, the longest one, unusually placed at the beginning: you get the riff, the very nice bass line, the perfect verses, the doom, the psych flavour, the drone too, the sound, the sum of all these things. It’s a very good track, and it’s just the beginning.

Almost every other song is able to start again just when you think it’s done, and every track has something set aside for you. It could be a bridge as simple as good and the perfect vocals on Murphy Was an Optimist; the drone temptation of Crocodilians; the coda of Shadowland; the riffing on Silent War; and so on until the very end: till the catchiness of Good Moaning

The ease of the flow is quite admirable, as it is the musicianship; I’d say this is smiling doom, it’s dark but not desperate, it’s thick but not suffocating. Sometimes you need it just like that, you need Goatess.

Yours heavily, mp

Goatess, Purgatory Under New Management, Svart Records 2016.



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A big snake: Omega Monolith, «Fungus»

FungusDear friend,

sometimes I feel immediately at home in a record. More often because of the sound, more  rarely because of what is being said, and I don’t mean the lyrics. In Fungus, second album by Greek duo Omega Monolith, there are no lyrics at all, but there’s definitely a speech, a discourse, and I’ve founded myself listening to it attentively since the first notes. Their music is a way of thinking, and I liked it a lot.

I would say, first of all, start from the very beginning, take your time, and develop every idea without haste; when you land on something, stick to it, because it’s only with enough repetitions that you can squeeze some meaning from a (musical) idea; try specific ingredients out of their usual context, and let be taken away by the power of compulsiveness.

Fungus is a very serious record, deeply rooted in drone and repetition, and offering a wide spectrum of sounds, ideas, and wisely chosen effects, with a lot of things going on under the surface, especially in the rhythm department. Fungus is a big, hypnotic snake that wrapped you in its coils and rock you to oblivion (no surprise that at its centre you find a Rust Cohle sample). It’s heavy, when needed, it’s mysterious and coming from who-knows-where (the beginning of The Future is Gone), it’s cryptic (the first minutes of The Past is Now), it’s quite often surprising.

You have to be really sure of what you’re doing to avoid a single second of bore, and OM succed at this without any sign of effort: they mean exactly what they’re playing. I’d bet they’re really satisfied with Fungus – they should.

Yours heavily, mp

Omega Monolith, Fungus, 3 Shades of Black 2016.


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Elegant moves: Messa, «Belfry»

BelfryMy dear friend,

you know sometimes – quite often – I get stuck with a riff, or with a little detail. It’s quite common for a metalhead: after a couple of listenings, the whole album is almost forgotten, and you keep coming back to the same song, over and over, the counter flies, and in a while you would like that particular piece of metal to be heard in every corner of the town, night and day. Your inner-headbanging never stops, your inner-air-guitaring sometimes reaches the surface.

I owe the last occurrence of this brilliant phenomenon to Italian doomsters Messa, and to their first lp Belfry. It’s a good album, actually very good: well written, assembled, played & sung, and I’d like to write to you about its many virtues: the classic feeling, the riff outfit, the unusual episodes, the burning guitar solos (including several nice hommages, to the Skynyrds for instance), the clarinet & the sax (Blood is excellent), the nice cover and the rain, etc., but… But this evening two of its riffs took the stage, and now I hear only them, anything but them: the main riff of Babalon, and the second riff of Outermost.

So, get the album, but first I urge you to listen to those riffs: they are open-winged, they have a sad smile, a melancholic twist, they are a little slower than what you could expect, they are sticky like glue, and elegant like an old man move.

Yours heavily, mp

Messa, Belfry, Aural Music 2016.


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Shining black: Fórn, «Weltschmerz»

WeltschmerzDear friend,

names are relevant, so Weltschmerzla douleur du monde – by Fórn grabbed immediately my attention. On top of that I remember very well The Departure of Consciousness, their first album back in 2014, and I was expecting a new demonstration of huge riffing mastery: well, I got it, and much more. Made of two tracks (Saudade and Dolor, so you definitely got the concept), divided in two parts each, Weltschmerz is a quite perfect exercise in funeral sludge/doom: slow, when you have to be slow in order to move heavy loads; deep, when you can only go deeper; black, like its cover; clear, when you need a pause; vast, as the seas of feedback you have to sail; painful, like the growl that resonates down there.

Weltschmerz has a particular narrative quality, it is like an Eighteenth century symphonic poem, where every traditional element of our beloved doom conjures to make you see something in addition of what you hear. From this point of view, Dolor (Part II), which closes the album, is something that can’t be dismissed as just «atmosphere»: it’s the logical conclusion of what came before. It’s a really evocative record, without being abstract, because underneath every shade, and every desperate scream, you can always hear guitars, bass & drums (the drums!).

I said I was expecting huge riffing… well, you won’t forget what rises up in front of you, of us all, at 4’52” of Dolor (Part I): the sound of a mountain on the move.

Yours heavily, mp

Fórn, Weltschmerz, Gilead Media 2016.


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Black charm: Oranssi Pazuzu, «Värähtelijä»

VarahtelijaMy dear friend,

you know that I’m a big, deep fan of built-on-a-single-riff tracks, but in this case I’ve to praise heavy metal because it has proven itself more and more capable of including rather than excluding. I’m talking about Oranssi Pazuzu’s new record, Värähtelijä. You can feel that something interesting is going to happen right from the beginning, since that slightly dissonant bell-like guitar that opens Saturaatio, the nicely titled first track, which unfurls like a long roll of tapestry until laying at rest on the surface of a big black lake. It also presents you with the experience of the constant changing of the landscape: an experience which is the main key to the entire record.

The amount of not usual metal sounds is huge, and scattered throughout the whole album, so that, at some point, you may ask yourself: Where am I? Is it still metal what I’m listening to (for instance the dissolution of the vast & wonderful Vasemman käden hierarkia)? It doesn’t matter, in the end, as long as you can always find some kind of musical discomfort, some kind of displacement, mainly entrusted here to sparse vocals, to heavy, thunderous bass lines, or to obstinate drumming.

There are no big gestures in Värähtelijä, there are a lot of little moves, additions, overlappings and detours, that constantly keep you in a state of anxiey, with almost no release – no climaxes, no peaks, very few clearings, no rest: a general tension produced by the fact that every part – guitars, bass, drum, keyboards – seem to follow its own reasoning, almost independently. In this «almost» lies a big part of OP’s black charm. They seem to play from a place full of new visions & nightmares nobody has dreamed yet, and that’s good.

Your heavily, mp

Oranssi Pazuzu, Värähtelijä, Svart Records 2016.

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Darkness Department: Bethmoora, «Demo 2016»

BethmooraDemoDear friend,

the cathartic power of heavy metal is no mystery, it’s quite common experience actually. Its degree, though, can be very different, and you know something special is happening when you feel you are not just listening, even if you’re sitting at your table with your headphones on.

I got that feeling from Bethmoora’s Demo 2016, «a sludgy doom monster from the darkest depths of Copenhagen», in their own words. Black is the colour of this demo, black like a shiny cut of obsidian. You know from the first, dry chords that you are entering a menacing place, which becomes really unsettling when the vocals take the stage – distorted, desperate, and agonizing. Underneath them the usual gear seems to dig the ground with distinctive ferocity: no particular riff, just slow black heavy majestic chords stacked one on another, with a nice drony attitude which emerges especially in the second, outstanding track, Ousted.

You may think that you will be haunted by the sound of that voice… And yet, when the music’s over,  you find yourself cleansed, in a way; crushed, yet surprisingly lighter.

Bethmoora are not alone in this department of darkness, and yet they seem already mastering it. So, I hope this is just the beginning for them, although it seems like they play the music of the end.

Yours heavily, mp

Bethmoora, Demo 2016, self-released 2016.


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The gentle fuzz: Mother Engine, «Absturz»

AbsturzMy dear friend,

either it’s like watching the sun’s distant reflections over the sea, or like feeling the warming of a big rocket’s engine, the beginning of Absturz (= ‘crash’, ‘fall’), second album by German stoner kings Mother Engine offers a moment of pure recognition: I’m ready, take me wherever you like. The first guitar solo starts (Chris Trautenbach), the fuzz is under control, the ride begins. Then the sound thickens, as minutes are ticking, and the fuzz, and the cymbals’ fizz (Cornelius Grünert), and the powerful rumble (Christian Dressel) fully take the stage.

The stoner gear is there, all along the six tracks, all the musical cells, the short three-four-notes phrases ready to be repeated the right amount of times, showing their droning potential, wrapped  in the right amount of wah: nothing is particularly new, but everything is crafted with special attention, so that the ride is extremely satisfying (take, for instance, the enthralling build-ups).

And there is some kind of kindness at the bottom of Mother Engine’s vast and beautiful sound, and this could be new. The guitar might be wild, sometimes, and the drums and bass might be sitting upon a tank of unlimited fuel, but the trip is soft and sweet, full of wonders and friendly presences (included a couple of nice ‘transmissions’, in German), full of light and musical joy. Mother Engine are definitely part of a big family, but for me they easily stand in the front row, and Absturz is glorious hour spent in some distant place, a place where you’re not ashamed of smiling and lightly rocking your head.

Yours heavily, mp

Mother Engine, Absturz, self-released 2015.


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